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Two decaying leisure centres added to long list of dereliction
also.. Vet medicine banned in UK seized in Belfast en route to County Armagh address
Once the thriving heartbeat for swimming lessons, family outings and social get togethers, two leisure complexes in Craigavon and Portadown now sit in a desolate state - deemed surplus to requirement with the opening of the £30 million South Lake Leisure Centre. But, were we ready to lose them?
Derelict buildings are an issue across many of our towns. Abandoned buildings, like the old nurses’ accommodation on Union Street posing a threat to public safety, attracting vandalism and anti-social behaviour; and in general do nothing to enhance the overall appearance of the area.
Readers in Lurgan will remember Waves... now razed to the ground! The same sentence was passed on Cascades Portadown in 2020. At the time, Armagh I reported how the demolition – which would also involve subsequent siteworks – was to be completed within a five month timeframe from the date of appointment.
But alas, it still stands! Both Brownlow Leisure Centre and Cascades have been the topic of much debate as to their impending doom. One potential use, which was splashed about was a proposal by former Councillor Darryn Causby, was to move the town’s market to the derelict site in order to allow traders to operate safely.
Alternatives have, also, been laid on the table for Brownlow Leisure Centre with a local man starting a petition to save ‘The Reck’ and turn it into an urban sports centre. Speaking at the time Ryan McGroder said:
“I have tried to convince our council that this building is in the perfect location to have Craigavon’s first Urban Sports centre with everything from BMX and skateboarding to DJing and spray painting”.
The petition has struggled to raise its signature target, at the time of writing, falling 57 shy of 1,000 respondents.
Add these decaying buildings to the ever-growing list of facilities lying empty - Armagh Gaol, The Trian, Armagh Visitor Information Centre and Armagh Hostel - and it's all starting to look bleak for some of our potential attractions.
It is worth bearing in mind that Councils face budget challenges; it’s hard to comprehend what underlying issues may be at play – it’s surely not a case of turning the key and walking away, or out of sight, out of mind?
Perhaps, one option is to explore public-private partnerships, or other funding arrangements, that may be able to provide the required resources to refurbish and repurpose these buildings. This would allow them to be used for a variety of purposes, such as commercial space and community use. Or, particularly in the case of the Gaol, they could be converted into cultural or tourist attractions?
On Wednesday evening we asked the question on our social media channels - what would you like to see happen? And you weren’t shy in telling us!
David Potts suggested “Something to do with men’s mental health. Somewhere people could go to talk and for help and guidance, suicide prevention, help getting off drink or drugs and finding a purpose in life and somewhere they could go for help and guidance with that ? Because that’s the real epidemic/pandemic that’s being ignored in NI”.
Christine Taaffe commented saying “a venue to provide summer schemes and activities for kids with special needs for example autism and ADHD”.
Perhaps what Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council – and its 41 incoming councillors – hold in their hands is the opportunity to become leaders in the regeneration of out-of-use buildings, coming up with innovative solutions best serving the community and putting our borough centre-stage when it comes to first class facilities.
One thing is for certain, the vast majority of the public are in favour of these carbuncles being brought back to life and contributing positively to our local communities.
Congratulations to Andrea McClenaghan - you are the lucky winner of a pair of tickets to “The Happy Medium”, in the Market Place Theatre Armagh on April 27, 2023. Please contact our office on 02837 443 043.
.. and Aoibhin Renaghan well done! You click the button at just the right time to win a pair of cinema tickets! Well done. Contact the office on 02837 443 043 to arrange to collect your tickets.
One of our readers sent us in this photo of a wedding day in 1950 at the Church of Ireland in Jonesborough. Can you name any of the people in the photo?
Whilst ancient structures contain a certain charm, as the modern world develops around them they can become redundant, and at times, dangerous. One such instance of this can be seen in the 1968 reconstruction of Tandragee Mall.
In October of 1986, The Armagh Guardian reported the ‘end of an era’ as the ancient landmark entered into partial removal.
The mall, built in and around 1812, had formed a stone surround for the Parish Church, however, as the town and infrastructure expanded around it a particular corner of the wall presented a visual obstruction to motorists approaching Church Street.
A budget of £100,000 had been allocated in a ‘large scale plan’ to give the town a new look which incorporated the removal of a ‘large portion’ of the west end of the mall.
Whilst the scheme received overwhelming public support, a few asked the reasonable question: would it take away from the town’s beauty?
In response to this, local Publican Mr. D Morgan said: “Tandragee has a beauty all of its own”, he continued, “Now that the Council has started to improve the appearance they should do something about the lower end of the mall which has become an eye-sore and could do with a good clean up”.
It begs the question, is it more sad to see these structures removed entirely or to watch them slowly disintegrate?